Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My 100 marathons - numbers 1 to 10

In 2014 I hope to complete my 100th marathon and my 100th half marathon. To mark the occasion I am raising funds for SAMH, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, a charity of which I am a Trustee. If you wish to make a donation please visit my Justgiving page at the following link:


I thought it would be interesting (for me if no-one else) to look back on my memories of each marathon. It may take a while to pull together, but here are my thoughts on the first 10.

Number 1 - Glasgow, September 1984 – 3 hours 35 mins

I had watched the Glasgow marathon in 1983 and decided it was something I wanted to do the following year, once I had turned 18. I followed the ‘Glasgow Herald’ training plan religiously from April to September, ran well on the day and a bit to my surprise found it a fairly easy run. I was a marathon runner.

Number 2 – Glasgow, September 1985 – 4 hours 23 mins

This was so different from the previous year. I ‘forgot’ to do any training until the Monday before the race. An 8 mile easy run convinced me, somewhat foolishly, that my natural fitness (!) would see me through the full race. Dressed up as Robin (running with my friend Gordon who was Batman), we set off into the rain at as easy a pace as possible. I managed to keep running for 23 miles before the wheels fell off big style. I struggled to the finish, then struggled to get back to the car, and couldn’t walk up or down stairs for the next fortnight. This marathon running wasn’t as easy as I had thought… a bit of training made it a lot easier. Who would have thought?

Number 3 – Dundee, May 1991 – 3 hours 17 mins

In the four and a half years from September 1985 to April 1990 I had put on a lot of weight and lost all my fitness. That changed when I moved to Troon and started running, first of all simply to get fit and then, as I was enjoying it, to try and get faster. In October I joined the local club, Troon Tortoises, and saw my times come down and down. I trained hard all winter towards the Lochaber marathon in April 1991, and believed I was in shape for a sub 3 hour finish. The inevitable happened. I went off too fast, fell apart just after the half way point, and needed a lift back in a police car from 18 miles. I was totally devastated about my failure and decided to do Dundee a few weeks afterwards as my way of getting ‘back on the horse’, without wearing a watch and simply running to finish. I have 2 distinct memories of this race. The first was seeing the lead car come back down the course with its clock when I was about 15 miles, and realise quite how slowly I was running. I gave myself a good talking to and pushed on over the last 11 miles, passing well over 100 people. The second was reaching the finish, going in to the Caird Hall to get changed, and being offered a drink of lager by a runner beside me. When I said no thanks – my stomach was in bits – he asked me if I was driving. It didn’t occur to him that it was probably the last thing on earth I wanted to drink at that particular moment.

Number 4 – Loch Rannoch, June 1991 – 3 hours 18 mins

I loved the Loch Rannoch marathon but don’t remember a great deal about this particular race, maybe because I did it (and the half) quite a few times, and the years sort of merge in to one another. It was a loop round the village (3 miles) the 23 miles round the loch, going through the grounds of Rannoch School at about 20 miles. The route was hilly, particularly at the far end of the loch, and normally hot. I’m fairly sure I just set out to run – a bit like Dundee – and not worry too much about my time, but to be honest I don’t remember too much about it.

Number 5 – Inverclyde, August 1991 – 2 hours 59 mins

While I didn’t remember much about LR, I remember almost everything about Inverclyde. The race started on the prom, headed up to Port Glasgow, turned and came back through Greenock, along through Gourock and out to the Cloch lighthouse, then turned and came back in to the prom. I thought sub 3 hours was on and went for it, running at a steady and very consistent 6.45 pace. Things started to hurt around 21 / 22 miles, but by then I knew I was on for sub 3 and dug in. I still remember seeing the 25 mile sign as I came back in to the prom – I was really hurting by this stage, but determined to keep it going. The prom is on a bit of a curve, so I didn’t see the finish line until there was less than half a mile to go, and it was a wonderful feeling when I crossed the line in 2.59.00. That was it – I was a sub 3 hour marathon runner. At the time I really thought that all my marathons would be sub 3 from then on… if only I had known….

Number 6 – London, April 1992 – 3 hours 22 mins

I picked up a frustrating shin splint injury in October 1991, and despite some good physiotherapy from Hugh Hunter at Crosshouse Hospital, didn’t really get in to any serious running until late January 1992. I had a place in the London marathon and was keen to do it, so tried to ease up my mileage in the hope I would be able to finish, although clearly not at the same pace as my last marathon at Inverclyde. That was effectively what happened – I had enough to get round, but found the last 6 miles hard going and slowed quite a bit over the second half of the course. Still, it was good to experience the London marathon for the first time – in those days the race finished on Westminster Bridge and you came up the Mall in the opposite direction.

Number 7 – Black Isle, October 1992 – 3 hours 7 mins

This marathon came highly recommended from a couple of the more experienced runners in the club. It was a horrendous drive up the A9 in terrible rain on the Friday night – the marathon was on the Saturday – and the people in the B&B I was staying were actually out looking for me as I reached Fortrose. My knee had been giving me problems for the few months before, and I was going in for an operation the Friday after the marathon which was going to keep me out of running for at least 6 weeks. I took the view that my knee was going to get fixed anyway, so there was no point in worrying about any pain from it during the race. We were bussed across the Black Isle to the marathon start, and ran all the way round the Isle and back to the finish at Fortrose. I ran fairly well throughout. It was a cold day with a biting wind, and there was a long 2 mile climb around 17 miles coming out of Cromarty. I had hoped that the run down the other side of the hill would be better, but the wind was so strong that it made the last 6 miles very hard. I was pleased to finish, pleased with my time, and the post race shower in Fortrose Academy was one of the best I have ever had.

Number 8 – London, April 2003 – 3 hours 38 mins

This still ranks as one of the worst marathons I have ever run. I had my knee operation, recovered well, and felt really good when I did a 20 mile warm up race at Hereford in 2.12 at the end of February 1993. Maybe I just came back to quickly. I knew as soon as I started the marathon that things weren’t right – my legs felt like lead – and it just got worse as the race went on. The only consolation I could take was that I finished. With the benefit of hindsight I think I had a virus, and it didn’t go away for a couple of months.

Number 9 – Taunton, April 1994 – 3 hours 4 mins

I didn’t do another marathon in 1993, and targeted Taunton as my spring marathon for 1994. I drove down to London on the Friday, then across to Taunton on the Saturday. It was a 2 lap event – I was under 3 hour pace at the end of the first lap, but felt things slip around 17 miles and slowed considerably over the last 8 miles or so to finish in a slightly disappointing 3.04. It was a long drive home, and a huge struggle to get out the car at a service station.

Number 10 – Belfast, May 1994 – 3 hours 7 mins

This remains one of the most memorable marathons I have ever done, not because it was a particularly good performance but because it was the first time I had been to Belfast, and in 1994 Belfast was still in the middle of the troubles. I flew in and out of Belfast for the day and the level of security at the airport was something I had not seen before, particularly when flying between 2 British airports. The marathon route took us on an incredible tour of Belfast: through the Protestant Shankill area, along the Catholic Falls Road, round the affluent university area, through the shipyards, before finishing in the centre of Belfast. It was a wonderful way to see so many different parts of the city. I had a mixed run; by 12 miles I was really struggling, but seemed to rally in the latter stages to finish fairly strongly. My overriding memory is looking across at a soldier in the Falls Road, with his gun pointing towards the runners, and seeing a child playing around him, running under his legs, and not even noticing he was there. The soldiers had become such a part of daily life, they were barely noticed.

Numbers 11 to 20 to follow in due course……

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